Sea Shanties 
Traditional Songs



Chanties or shanties were workmen’s songs used in the performance of arduous and repetitive work. They are most commonly associated with the sea and the work sailors performed in hauling up anchors and sails. They were also used by work gangs building lighthouses in the 18th/19th centuries.

The song would consist of a verse chanted by a foreman (or chanter) and the chorus would be sung by the workmen as they hauled or trod around a windlass. The main feature of the song would be its regular rhythm designed to encourage coordinated effort.

Shanties were chanted by sailors and landlubbers alike. For example, Alexander Mitchell, the Irish marine engineer who developed the screw pile support for lighthouses located in shallow bays and rivers, would lead the chanteys the crews sang as they trod around the huge windlasses that drove in the massive screws.
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